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- The Adventures of a Boy Reporter - 6/23 -


more on his way to the city.

It was lonesome work, walking along a country road at night, and Archie remembered with longing his cosy bed at home. The feeling of homesickness kept growing within him, despite his efforts to down it, and when at last the glorious autumn sun rose over the eastern horizon he was miserable with longing for mother and for home. But he was too proud to even think of turning back. He must reach the city at all hazards, homesick or not.

Archie did not think of breakfast this morning. His experience of the night before seemed to have taken away his appetite entirely, and his only thought was to walk as fast as possible, so that he could reach the city soon. About nine o'clock he entered the outskirts of a busy town, and while there he observed that the railroad going to the city passed through the place. All at once a new idea occurred to him. He had so often heard men and boys tell of how they had stolen a ride from one town to another. Why shouldn't he be able to get a ride on a freight train to the city. Would it be wrong? Archie thought not, since so many men did it. And anyhow it didn't seem a wicked thing to cheat the railroad. He had heard people say that the company ought to be cheated whenever possible, since it cheated so many others. So, from being so tired and so anxious to reach New York, Archie decided to try and steal a ride. He entered the yards, where a train was being made up for the south, and there he saw a cattle-car with an open door. He immediately jumped inside and shut the door, squeezing himself into the farthest corner, hoping that he wouldn't be discovered. He soon found that he wasn't alone, for a couple of tramps were in the opposite corner, and they whispered to him not to make any noise. "The brakie," they said, "will soon be 'round, and if he finds ye he'll put us all in jail."

Poor Archie grew pale at the thought of being put in jail, and huddled himself closer in the corner. After a time the train started, and the tramps, he noticed, climbed up into some sort of compartment under the roof of the car, where they wouldn't be observed, leaving Archie alone down-stairs. Things went smoothly for a time. The train went flying along, and Archie counted every mile which brought him nearer to the city. Finally the train pulled up at a crossing, and a brakeman came along and threw open the door of the car. He was not long in discovering the cowering figure in the corner, and his wrath was dreadful to look upon. "So, ye cussed vagabond," he growled, "ye thought ye'd steal a ride, did ye? Get out o' this now. Quick, out with ye." Archie could have fainted, and, as it was, he almost fell out of the car, propelled by the brakeman's boot. For awhile he stood dazed beside the track, and finally moved on. "I'll keep a 'stiff upper lip,'" he said, "whatever happens." But this was by far the most discouraging adventure yet.

CHAPTER VII.

ARRIVAL IN NEW YORK-- A NIGHT IN A LODGING-HOUSE.

ON and on for the rest of the day walked Archie. His feet were sore, he was weak from hunger, and he was made miserable with being homesick. People who met him on the road turned around to look at the slender lad with the pale face and the weary step, but he kept walking on, stopping for nothing, and noticing no one. At noon he picked some apples in an orchard, and these appeased his hunger. When evening drew near, however, he felt that he could go without food no longer, so he didn't hesitate to stop at a house and ask for food. "I know mother would give a boy food if one should come to our door," he said to himself, "so I do not think it wrong for me to ask for food here." He was fortunate enough to strike a pleasant housewife, who took him in and made him sit down at the kitchen table, which she covered with good things to eat. There was cold roast beef, some fried potatoes and a glass of good fresh milk. And then she gave him some apple pie, so that when he had finished Archie felt better than for many a day. While he ate he told the good woman why he was going to New York, and her sympathy was enlisted at once. "Why, you poor lad," she exclaimed, "just to think of your being in the city all alone. And what will your mother think?"

Archie couldn't imagine what his mother did think. He had remembered her every minute during the last few days, and was anxious to write her, so he decided to ask the woman for some paper and a pencil. These were gladly given him, and he sat down and told his mother that he was almost to New York and that he had been having a splendid time. He was careful not to say anything about his experience with Farmer Tinch, or the night he spent with the tramps. He knew these things would only make her unhappy, and it was just as well that she should think everything was smooth sailing for him. His letter was filled with his enthusiasm and his hope for the morrow, so that when good Mrs. Dunn received it she was overjoyed, and hurried over to show it to the Widow Sullivan, who enjoyed it thoroughly and said "I told you so." Poor Mrs. Dunn had been having a very miserable time of it. She was hardly surprised that morning when she awoke and found Archie gone, but she was naturally much worried for fear some accident would happen to him before he reached New York. Once there, she felt that she needn't worry much about him, for, strange to say, Mrs. Dunn had a firm belief in the ability of city policemen to take care of every one, and she knew that Archie would not be allowed to suffer for want of food and a place to sleep. And when she received this letter, saying that Archie was nearly to New York, and had even been so successful as to earn some money, she felt more comfortable than for some time, Of course she supposed that he would be home before long. She was positive that he wouldn't be able to get any work in the city, and knew that as soon as his money gave out he would return. "It's all for the best," she said to Mrs. Sullivan. "The habit of running away from home was born in the boy. His father left home when he was no older than Archie, and no harm ever came to him. So I'm not going to worry, Mrs. Sullivan." And then Mrs. Dunn would go back to her home, and at sight of Archie's old hat or some of his football paraphernalia, would burst into tears.

The good woman who gave Archie his supper refused to let him start out again on the road that night. She told him that he must remain with them, for they had an extra bed up over the kitchen which was never needed, and that he might just as well sleep there as not. So for the first time in nearly a week Archie slept comfortably, and, as he heard the familiar sounds in the kitchen below him in the morning, it was hard for him to make up his mind that he was not at home, and that it was not his mother who was grinding the coffee in the kitchen below. He heard the ham frying in the skillet, and the rattle of the dishes as his hostess set the table, and then he dressed himself and hastened downstairs, feeling ready for a good day's walking.

When he had eaten his breakfast he started out again. The woman told him that it was only about fifteen miles to New York, and that after he had walked about six of them he could take a trolley-car and ride the remainder of the distance for five cents. So he thanked her for her kindness, and promised to let her know how he succeeded in the city, for the woman was much interested in his future. He felt almost sorry to leave the home-like place, but the prospect of reaching the city this very day was enough to make him anxious to be off. He covered the six miles to the trolley-car before eleven o'clock in the morning, and then in an hour and a quarter more the trolley landed him in lower New York.

His sensations as he was whirled along the smooth pavements, past beautiful buildings and handsome residences, may be better imagined than described. After looking forward to this day for so long, he was almost overcome at the realisation of his hopes, and took the utmost delight in everything about him. When the car stopped at the terminus of the line, he got out and walked up the busiest street in the neighbourhood. He hardly knew what to do first, but continued walking until he came to the New York end of the great Brooklyn Bridge. Then he couldn't resist the desire to walk across the bridge, and he started out upon the journey. Up the steps he walked, and soon he had climbed as far as the middle of the magnificent structure. There he stood for some time, looking out over Governor's Island, nestled like a green egg in a nest of red buildings, and past Staten Island to the open sea beyond It was all grander, more beautiful than anything he had ever seen before, and he felt glad that he had come. Then in another direction he saw the never-ending succession of buildings, some tall, some low ones, but all inhabited with swarms of people. "There are three million people in this great city," he said to himself, "and over them in New Jersey, in those cities I see, there are a million more, and I am one of four million." The thought was too much for the boy, and he continued his walk across the bridge. Once across, he came back again, for Brooklyn was a strange place to him. In New York City he felt more at home, for he had at least spent two days within its limits.

Once back in the busy streets, he decided to look about for a cheap place to stay for the night. It was the middle of the afternoon now, and he felt that he ought to make some preparation. He knew better than to apply at the police station for lodging, for he knew they would probably turn him over to the famous Gerry Society, which would send him back home before a day had passed, and then where would his ambitions be?

He remembered the place where he had stayed with Uncle Henry, but he knew that this would be too high-priced for his pocketbook, so he started up the Bowery, where he expected to find some very cheap places. He didn't like the looks of the people he met in the street, but his experiences on the way to New York had taught him not to be too particular about a little dirt. So when he came to a rickety building with a sign up, "Beds, ten and fifteen cents," he immediately went up the dark, filthy stairway, and found himself in a large room at the top which served as the "hotel" office. There were rows of chairs in front of the windows and along the walls, and in the chairs were the queerest-looking lot of men he had ever seen. He didn't pay any attention to them, though, but went up to the seedy individual behind the desk, and asked him if he could get a bed for the night. "Sure, Mike," the man replied, and Archie signed his name in a dirty book with torn pages. He paid the man ten cents, and asked if he could leave his bundle while he went outside. "Sure, Mike," was again his answer, and the man took his little bundle of necessities and threw them on the floor behind the counter. When Archie had gone out, a fat man with a baby face came up and whispered to the clerk. "Anything in the bloke?" he inquired. "Nit," said the clerk, "don't yer see his baggage? Does it look like there's anything in it?" And the mysterious conversation closed, to be continued later in the evening.

CHAPTER VIII.

LOOKING FOR WORK-- WASHING DISHES IN A BOWERY RESTAURANT.

AFTER a couple of hours spent in going about the streets, Archie went into a place where he bought some coffee and rolls for his supper. He paid only five cents for three sweet rolls and a large cup of coffee which was not at all bad to taste, and he returned to the lodging-house on the Bowery feeling better than he had expected to feel when he started out from the homestead where he spent the previous night, If he could get a good meal for five or ten cents, and could sleep for ten cents more, he would have enough to keep him going for some time.

The Bowery at night presented a wonderful appearance to Archie's mind.


The Adventures of a Boy Reporter - 6/23

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